I just completed my fourth annual round-the-State lecture to other injury lawyers regarding Municipal Liability for the New York State Academy of Trial Lawyers. You can see the outline for my talk at the “publications” page on our Michaels & Smolak, P.C. website. “Municipal Liability” means holding a government entity, such as a county, town, village, city, school district or public authority, liable for injuries. I lectured to Albany personal injury lawyers, Syracuse personal injury lawyers, Rochester personal injury lawyers, and Buffalo personal injury lawyers.
This is a hard topic. Bringing a claim against a governmental entity in New York State is like walking down a labyrinth strewn with hidden mines that can explode under foot. You need to know where to turn in the maze, and which steps to avoid. There are bizarre, complex special procedures you have to navigate through, and some very powerful defenses you have to watch out for.
As for procedures, before you even sue a municipality, you generally have to serve something called a “notice of claim“, a legal document giving the municipality certain key information about the claim you intend to bring. This has to be served on the municipality in a very specific way within 90 days of the injury you want to sue for. Also, your statute of limitations is usually much shorter than when you just sue a private person. There are many other procedural differences too, including something called a “50-h examination”, which is a chance for the municipality’s lawyer to ask you questions under oath about your claim. To read a more complete detailed account of these procedural hurdles, read my Municipal Liability article “Suits Against Public Entities“, which was published in the New York State Bar Journal several years ago, but is now conveniently located on our firm website at the “publications” page.
Even if you navigate your way through all these complex procedures, however, cases against municipalities and other government bodies often fail because of the very special and abundant defenses municipalities and goverrnments (and no one else) have under New York law. Oh, they have so many arrows in their quiver! I’ll tell you about those, though, in a future blog entry.
I love giving this annual lecture tour for two reasons – first, it forces me to be on top of the complex rules and defenses you meet when suing municipalities — towns, villages, cities and the like — in New York State. Second, I get to meet and know great lawyers from around the great State of New York. New York, see you next year!